Ready to turn your expertise into an online course?

Creating an online course

Ready to turn your expertise into an online course?

Have you ever considered turning your knowledge into an online course and selling it?

It’s much easier and harder than you might think.

The team at myMarketing Cafe just wrapped up an online marketing course to help nonprofit leaders, and we learned a great deal from the experience. In this post, I thought I would share the lessons learned, and how we dealt with a few of the challenges we faced. 

Allow extra time for the extensive front-end preparation.

Developing a course curriculum is very time-consuming, especially if you are not an educational architect. Our process included talking to nonprofit leaders about what they found the hardest when it came to marketing their business. Using this information, we built a course curriculum and began building the individual lessons. The list of challenges for nonprofit leaders was quite extensive and actually filled 12 lessons and six weeks.

During this planning phase, we had to identify a natural flow for our information and ensure the course was constructed so that material learned in lesson 1 transitioned through to lesson 12. We reviewed the trainings that were already available online to make sure our information was different and better.

Challenge: How do we manage time constraints when developing course material?
Solution: Turn to outside experts. Whether you outsource the design of the material or build a team to help create the course, turn to experts to help you stay on track.

Create supplemental material that no one else offers.

What surprised us most was the sheer number of trainings that are available online, including many high-quality free trainings. When you are competing against so many sources, it becomes critical to share your value proposition with your target audience.

What is it that you offer that these other sources won’t or don’t?

This is the perfect place to showcase your career and industry experience. It’s one thing to learn a concept, but to be able to understand the concept and tie it to current business conditions is a unique skill.  Your experience adds tremendous value to the content and will be one of many benefits your prospects gain when taking your course.  In addition to showcasing our expertise, our team created a list of the top-five challenges faced by nonprofit leaders and researched expert content that would help address the challenges. We reviewed what other presenters were offering and made sure that our content stood out against the competition.

Challenge: How do we differentiate our course from others?
Solution: Showcase our industry expertise and create unique high-quality content tailored to the audience.

Unique offerings may include a course guide or book, a resource guide unique to the industry, a complimentary assessment or consultation, membership to an online community or network, or VIP networking opportunities.

Build a network of prospects far in advance of launching the course.

For the past year, we have been building a network of prospects, and we’ve been marketing to this network using every available channel. During this ongoing process, the goal is to establish yourself as a topic expert and the best way to do this is to showcase your expertise through content.  We have served as guest speakers at various public industry meetings. We wrote subject-matter blog posts on the Cup of Jo blog and as guest bloggers on other industry blogs.  We’ve connected through industry social media channels and supported our efforts with an internet marketing campaign to promote the course.

Take the time to build a network and establish a relationship with them now, even when your course is in the concept phase. If I would change any one thing about the process we used, it would definitely be to spend even more time with this task.  It’s critical for your program’s success.

Challenge: Building a prospect network
Solution: Begin joining groups that target your ideal audience. Turn to your existing network for introductions to your ideal audience. You never know who your current contacts already know.

Offer more than one mode of participation.

Have you ever signed up for a webinar you couldn’t attend, knowing you would receive a copy of the session via a recording? This has become a standard for eLearning. While technology has certainly made our lives easier, it has also made us busier. Multitasking took on a whole new meaning in the 2000s when technology began to take over everyday life.

Our course was scheduled for live classes every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30 p.m. EST. The classes lasted about 45 minutes. We developed a download center that hosted all of the course material, downloads, and recordings of the live classes. Our students were able to take the course live, or on their own schedule and at their own pace. By offering a self-paced on-demand option, we increased our potential market tremendously.

Challenge: How do we grow our audience?
Solution: Reach out to the audience and find out what matters to them when taking an online course. Learn their preferences and design your course to support them.

That’s a few of the challenges we faced. Our team learned as much as we taught during the experience and will be able to use the information to build a stronger course going forward.

  • Word Ninja I have. The more I research, the more I find that people want self-paced or on-demand, or if it’s live, then the preference seems to be a webinar or workshop. It’s really difficult for people to attend a course over a long period. For me, I prefer that way of learning! But the point you bring up is really important, this kind of content can be recorded and re-purposed, which makes the front-end investment of time less painful.

  • Sounds like an amazing course and very helpful. Have you considered re-purposing some of the content and doing a one-time webinar for a broader audience?